• Recycle 417 Team

Recycling is Alive and Well in Southwest Missouri

Updated: Feb 22, 2019


By now you’ve probably heard the rumors or seen the reports. “Don’t bother recycling,” they say. “It’s only going into the landfill,” they say. But let’s take a closer look at what’s going on with recycling.


For starters, the basic recycling equation is that there has to be a market or a user of the materials and then consumers must purchase the items made from those recycled materials. The money from these transactions is what keeps the recycling companies in business. Your recycling is actually a commodity, not trash.


Why would recycling end up in the landfill?

Frequently, rejected materials that are being put in landfills aren’t considered to be clean. You may hear these materials referred to as ‘contaminated.’ This can mean a few different things. In one scenario, a shipment sold as steel, but actually containing about 25% of aluminum, would be considered contaminated. Although aluminum is a recyclable material, it doesn’t belong with the steel shipment. This can affect the recycler’s ability to properly process the steel.


Contaminated can also refer to materials that are simply dirty. This doesn’t mean it’s hazardous, it just means it is literally dirty with food waste, oil, grease, or some other substance that can prevent proper processing and recycling of the materials.


A third form of contamination is items that can’t be recycled at all, or items that don’t belong in regular recycling facilities. Examples are plastic bags, garden hoses, yard waste, personal hygiene products, food waste, and Styrofoam. Some items can be dangerous or cause problems on the sorting line, such as plastic bags, hoses, cords, or other items that can get tangled in a conveyor belt. Some of these items can be recycled, but need to be directed separately to the proper facility.


To review: What is contamination? It’s a load of material that isn’t what it’s supposed to be, a load of material that is too dirty for processing, or items that simply can’t be recycled.


Some of the overseas markets have been accepting materials regardless of contamination, but they are now tightening their standards. This is why you may hear of recycling being landfilled in other areas of the country.


What about recycling in the Springfield area?

Our recyclers are local. They sell domestically and offer high quality materials to processors and end users. The majority of our recycling companies have been in business for a long time. They have high quality standards, meaning the materials they offer are clean and they have built long-standing relationships with a number of domestic markets. Springfield is positioned as a regional recycling hub and most items can be recycled somewhere within the area. Also, when you recycle here, you are supporting local businesses.


How have changes to the Chinese recycling market affected recycling in the US?

The primary impact has been on the west coast, where a lot of recycled materials were being shipped to China. Domestically, some markets are down but are expected to improve. Remember, recycling is a commodity, and prices will fluctuate just like other commodities.

Ultimately, we do need to be more conscientious about how we recycle. Our items need to be cleaner and we need to make sure bales of materials are free of contaminants.


How can we recycle better?

  • Don’t put plastic bags in recycling bins. They recycle separately at appropriate locations, such as Walmart Stores.

  • Please clean items before recycling them.

  • Glass recycles. It’s not allowed in most curbside bins, but the City of Springfield collects glass at all 3 recycling centers.

  • When in doubt, ask your recycling service provider or facility. Don’t throw something you are unsure of into a recycling bin.

  • Styrofoam food containers are not recyclable. Styrofoam packing material can be recycled at Computer Recycling Center for $5 per carload. Other businesses may take it for re-use; just call and ask.

Don’t stop recycling. Help our local businesses provide high quality materials by learning and following guidelines for clean and appropriate materials.

Ozarks Headwaters Recycling and Materials Management District